'Brave One' fails as 'Death Wish' redux

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I entered the theater for "The Brave One" sharpening my pen; a remake of Charlie Bronson's "Death Wish," no matter how much softer or more complex or graphic, is just another remake. Yet after two hours I had scribbled only one note: "Mixed format -- tragic love story forced into 'Death Wish.'"

"The Brave One" wasn't that bad, but it wasn't that good.

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a popular New York public radio host at the height of her career. She's her own woman -- a bit bohemian, a bit yuppie, as is her fiance and soul mate, who is also a doctor. And their dog? Well, he's a very good boy; her life can't really get much better.

Then one warm summer evening on a walk through the park they are mugged. She is viciously beaten into a coma, and he is killed. When she awakes three weeks later she finds that her fiance has been buried and the world has moved on. The police try to jog her memory about her attackers, but she draws a blank. There's nothing left to do but go home and get on with her life.

But now the city she loved seems to be the most dangerous place on Earth, and the only way to feel safe is to have a gun. Fade in the dramatic music and start adding forced, if not absurd, plot devices, and "The Brave One" turns into a revenge/vigilante action/thriller.

I can only assume that the Warner Bros. executives, the six producers, three writers and the director, went round and round with the script on this one.

All this is not to say the film isn't well done. The performances of Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard are first rate, and the overall look, camera work and production design of director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game," and "Interview with the Vampire") might be the best I've seen this year. It's just a question of whether the film was worth the effort. It isn't like a network having to fill a time slot. "The Brave One" was not needed -- as entertainment nor art. It's a reimagined remake of "Death Wish," and like Rob Zombie's "Halloween," it seems made solely, and regrettably, for commercial reasons.

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